16-year-old angler reels in 335-pound halibut

When Jackson Hobbs, 16, begins school in his hometown of Franklin, Idaho, later this month, he’ll have quite a story to share about his summer vacation.

After obtaining his Eagle Scout rank, the highest attainable in the Boy Scots of America, Hobbs’ grandfather, Tim, treated Hobbs to a halibut fishing trip in Alaska. Tuesday, while fishing with Capt. Travis Larson of Alaska Premier Sportfishing aboard the Venturess, the 16-year-old reeled in a 335-pound monster flatfish and anchored himself, at least for now, in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby’s top spot. The weight of Hobbs’ fish is more than 50 pounds heavier that the next largest derby entry, a 277.80-pound halibut caught by Ned Friedman of Chiloquin, Ore., on July 14.

The 11 anglers aboard the Venturess were fishing for lingcod south of the Barren Islands Tuesday morning when Hobbs made the catch.

“We were getting ready to go and I had my last cast down. I was about 15 turns up and the halibut followed my hook and just took off,” Hobbs told the Homer News. “I said, ‘I’ve got something.’ It was the one last cast when you think you’re going to catch something and sure enough.”

What followed were 30 minutes of hard work.

“They were videoing it and kept telling me to stand up straight because I was all hunched over. I was tired,” said Hobbs, whose family ranches and farms in Idaho.

Larson said he could tell bringing in the fish was a “tough go” for Hobbs. When he saw what Hobbs had on the other end of the line, Larson, a charter captain since the mid 1990s, estimated its weight at about 325 pounds. It took three people to wrestle the fish onboard.

“It was pretty intense and pretty amazing,” said Hobbs.

Although the charter was scheduled for overnight and two days of fishing, everyone on board was eager to return to Homer to have the fish weighed and officially entered into the derby.

“It was really cool because everyone out there wanted to fish, but once I caught it, everyone was super willing to come back. Nobody complained,” said Hobbs. “I just appreciate that they were willing to come back.”

After arriving in Homer and weighing his catch, Hobbs called his parents in Idaho.

“They’re pretty excited,” he said, adding that his grandpa was “pretty happy.”

Hobbs is a new addition to a group of Lower 48 anglers, including his grandfather, that have fished with Larson for years. The charter captain said he was particularly impressed with Hobbs.

“He’s just a really, really cool young kid, grounded quite a bit more than most young kids are,” said Larson. “His grandpa was telling everyone he’d won the derby and he was doing his best to keep his grandpa off cloud nine.”

The derby ends Sept. 15, which means anglers have almost a month to catch a fish weighing more than Hobbs’ 335-pounder. The last time a winning fish weighed more was 2011, when Chas Aldridge of Soldotna reeled in a 350.8-pound flatfish and won $28,260.

Asked if he would return to Homer to claim his prize if he won the derby, Hobbs, who is on his school’s soccer team, said he wasn’t sure.

“The day tryouts were over, I came here. The day I get back is the first game. The state soccer tournament is next month. So, it depends on some different variables,” he said.

Being that busy for the next few weeks should keep his mind busy instead of worrying about derby results.

“Hopefully,” Hobbs said, laughing. “But that was a once in a lifetime, right there.”

In other derby news, a day of fishing and then dining at one of Homer’s fine eating establishments made a winning combination for angler Brian Pendleton of Kirkwood, Mo.

After fishing with Capt. Ben Martin of North Country Charters aboard the Fringe Benefit on Aug. 15, Pendleton was enjoying a meal at Captain Pattie’s when Martin delivered the news that Pendleton had won $500 in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby’s August drawing for the released fish prize. The prize was sponsored by Coal Point Seafoods.

One of many ways to be a winner in the derby, the released-fish prize is reserved for anglers who catch and release a halibut measuring 48 inches or more. This was the third monthly drawing of $500 each that occurs between the time the derby began on May 15 and the time it ends. There also is an end-of-season drawing of $1,000.

The top 10 halibut currently on the derby leader board are:     

First place: 335.0-pound halibut caught Aug. 19 by Jackson Hobbs of Franklin, Idaho, while fishing with Capt. Travis Larson of Alaska Premier Sportfishing aboard the Venturess;

Second place: 277.80-pound halibut caught July 14 by Ned Friedman of Chiloquin, Ore., while fishing with Capt. Greg Northover of Alaska Arctic Sun Fishing and Hunting Expeditions aboard the Quintessence;

Third place: 197.00-pound halibut caught July 14 by Mark Meaders of Lake Geneva, Wis., while fishing with Alaskan Fishing Adventures aboard the Yoda;

Fourth place: 196.80-pound halibut caught June 6 by Molly Malthby of Cheboygan, Mich., while fishing with Capt. Ben Martin of North Country Charters aboard the Fringe Benefit;

Fifth place: 18.0-pound halibut caught July 6 by Casey Byrnes of Palmer while fishing with Capt. Josh Brooks of Brooks Alaskan Adventures aboard the Huntress;

Sixth place: 164.60-pound halibut caught Aug. 14 by Ryan Giada of Anchorage while fishing with Capt. Gabe Linegar of Drift Alaska Charter aboard the Casino;

Seventh place: 141.80-pound halibut caught July 5 by Michael Martini of Sunman, Ind., while fishing with Capt. Ben Martin of North Country Charters.

Eighth place: 139-pound halibut caught June 26 by Mike Leno while fishing with Capt. Rob Hyslip of Big Bear Halibut Charter aboard the Bear Force I.  

Ninth place: 134.40-pound halibut caught June 22 by Sean Hoffbeck of Kenai while fishing with Capt. Gabe Linegar of Drift Alaska Charters aboard the Casino;

Tenth place: 133.20-pound halibut caught Aug. 3 by Milsah Bolen of Sardis, Ohio, while fishing with Capt. Rob Hyslip of Big Bear Halibut Charters aboard the Bear Force I.

Derby tickets can be purchased at the chamber and visitor center, the derby headquarters on the Spit, Safeway, Boardwalk Bakery and several charters including Bob’s Trophy Charters, Central Charters, Inlet Charters and Sport Shed.

Up-to-date results, a list of prizes and more derby information can be found at homeralaska.org or by calling 235-7740.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.